(dailyRx News) It's well known that osteoporosis is most common among post-menopausal women. A new study finds that women who start menopause early are at greater risk for fracture than most women.
In fact, women who go through menopause before they turn 48 are twice as likely to develop osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and leads to fractures.
The average age for menopause to start is 51.
The study was conducted by Swedish researchers and published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Menopause is the period of a woman's life where her periods stop, and she is no longer able to become pregnant. When a woman has not had a period for a year, she's considered to be postmenopausal.
Scientists have long recognized that postmenopausal women are the highest-risk group for osteoporosis. But premature menopause, or early menopause, can occur before 40.
The Swedish study looked at how osteoporosis develops among women who went through menopause early, as well as mortality and risk of fracture.
The researchers took data from a long-term study that got started back in 1977. The study originally consisted of 390 white women from northern Europe, all aged 48.
They were divided into two groups: Those who reached a post-menopausal stage before 47, and those who started menopause after 47. Their bone mineral density, a measure of osteoporosis, was recorded at the start of the study, and when the 198 women remaining in the study turned 77.
The researchers found that at 77 years old, 56 percent of women with early menopause had osteoporosis, compared to 30 percent of women who had normal or late menopause.
They also found that women with early menopause had higher mortality than the control group (52.4 percent compared to 35.2 percent) and higher fracture incidence (44.3 percent compared to 30.7 percent).
The reasons for the connection between early menopause, and reduced bone mineral density and increased mortality are thus far unclear. But the study does suggest a strong correlation.
The researchers added that other factors, such as medication, nutrition, smoking and alcohol consumption could be at play.
The paper was published in April 2012.